Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Recently overheard at an anonymous meeting of JOIN-A-HOLICS …


“Hello my name is Michelle and I am a volunteer-a-holic.”

“Welcome Michelle!” chimes in the many sombre faces around the dimly lit church basement.
“I am a ‘joiner’. I am never able to quietly sit back and be satisfied to just be a member, I always have to put my hand in the air and volunteer to help.”
“We hear you sista … here here … never can just sit on my hands either …” resonates around the rows of chairs.

“Even though each time it ends badly and I swear to never offer my volunteer time again to any organization I always get swallowed back in and eventually spit back out. The many school mom planned activities I was so glad to be done with when my boys grew up wore me down over and over. Then the extra-curricular activities committees, and organizing of fundraiser and events.”
A big heavy all-knowing sigh rippled through the air.
“The local activities that turned into provincial teams, winter games committees and next thing I knew I was sitting on recreational centre board chairs, Karate club provincial boards. Endless meetings, countless hours for the greater team while my own personal time and my children’s mother time got swallowed up in overextended volunteer hours.”

The blank stares sat numb on their hands as if in fear of blurting out an offer to help. The very illness that brought them to the camaraderie of the meeting can also just as easily rip them apart. For join-a-holics, even asking for a volunteer to bring some after-meeting baking or show up early to start the coffee was a gateway drug to that slippery slope of giving too much, of not knowing when volunteerism ends and martyrdom starts.

She continued almost in tears, “At first everyone appreciates all the little things you do, all the efforts, the fresh ideas, the endless hours and enthusiasm but then those great ideas need a committee, a team, a team leader, and it all happens again.” Her voice cracks in the rawness of the moment. “I walked away many times over the years. Quit committees. Left town. Moved. But it always starts again. They find me. Those who see my volunteer giving nature and know I can get a job done and done well.” Another sympathetic sea of head nodding bobs around the group.
“When my boys were grown I swore off all volunteering and recognized that I could not even be a joiner. Joining anything meant sooner than later I was up to my pick-me-pick-me-eyeballs in a crush of overextended give-back free work to people who really didn’t care to help but took the glory without the effort.”
A loud “AMEN” rang out in the back.

“I even had a relapse and found myself back on the street and sitting on Chamber of Commerce Boards and hit a volunteer-low serving in elected municipal government” A gasp chilled the room of shocked faces. “I fell off the give-back wagon in a big way but thankfully a move out of town helped me crack that set back in my join-a-holics recovery.”
“Stay strong girl … you can have your own time again … be selfish and say no” were the revival shouts around the room.

“Eventually I took up my own interests, my own professional associations and I told myself joining became a career move necessity. Sitting at annual general meetings was getting harder and harder to not shout out the likes of ‘why don’t you do it this way or that way’  and before I knew it I was on committees and boards and back in the thick of it. In the beginning it was always fine everyone likes the fresh face, the new ideas, and the enthusiasm but then it starts. They build you up, back you up, push you into lead board roles and next thing you know you are on top and blamed for all that is wrong with an organization founded long before you showed up and hopefully will survive long after you are gone. It is like the government in that people vote you in, the rules and bylaws, the budgets and strategic plans are in place and rolling long before you ever arrived but heaven forbid any downturn or disappointment as you are the brunt of all things wrong.”

Her voice was drifting in her thoughts while a few keeners in the front row encouraged her to go on.
“If there is a positive outcome and success there is no ‘I’ in team and many many hands, many members, many volunteers all show up and say they worked tirelessly hand in hand to achieve the positive future. BUT if/when there is any downturn in the organization, the economy, the lack of funding, the lack of volunteers, and things do not go well as a key volunteer, a board head, a task force lead, then all of a sudden the team steps back and the lead role becomes single handedly the blame for all that went wrong.”
The join-a-holics meeting sat in awkward silence as she started to sob uncontrollably. “it’s not the countless overextended give-back-hours I miss” she sobbed, “or the half day electronic cross-province meetings, the exhausting time-zone shifting flight delayed travel cross country for board meetings, the out of pocket expenses and weeks a year away from my own work and home – no I knew full well what I was taking on and exhausting myself in.”
“We’ve all been there … no praise no glory … no appreciation for your efforts now is there” came the cries from those feeling her pushed-to-the-limits volunteer spirit.

As she composed herself she had one last message to share in hopes of helping her fellow overextended-volunteers. “A part of me thinks I would do it all again for any cause, any organization, any association I believe in but then I know in my heart of hearts I can’t for one simple single reason”. The crowd sat eagerly waiting for perhaps a gem of hope for their own over-volunteering-recovery.
“The hardest part when bad things happen to good volunteers is that when all is said and done, the friendships gained, the hours and hours spent enthusiastically trying to better your organizations, your profession, your industry, through giving back and volunteering to serve the board and all your colleague members … the hardest part is that if it does not happen, if all goes sideways, if that ‘team’ it takes to make a good association great cannot do the job then it is the leader, the top chair, who takes the blame, the ‘I’ that is not in team, is suddenly where it all falls.”
Feeling powerful again in her aaaaa-haaa moment she continued on preaching to the choir of those who knew that giving-too-much pain. “Now the blame I could have handled, righting wrongs, tweaking unbalanced budgets, finding much needed funds, moving forward and gladly helping fight the good fight but that is not the problem. The heartbreak, the reason why you seek out a church basement join-a-holics meeting to swear off ever volunteering again is simply the reason you showed up to help in the first place … the people, the colleagues, who have now become friends, associates, industry partners. It is not the not-succeeding as a committee/board that is the heartbreak, it is the blame and more so the sad loss of all those people, now friends, colleagues you offered to represent and help who turn their backs and throw you away with the problems. It is the personal blame for the professional woes.”

The group stood up and cheered as she returned to her seat. The next speaker up at join-a-holics that evening and the next one after that all lamented the same loss. It was never for the role, the glory, the ego, the title, it was for the belief in why you volunteered, the respect for what you were passionate about, the support of colleagues to grow an association, better an industry. The push back and the desire to never want to volunteer or give back ever again comes from the lack of personal respect offered around the table when an organization struggles. Blame of volunteers who selflessly give-back should not be part of the solution.

Burned-out unappreciated volunteers are everywhere around us, sworn off giving of their time and talents ever again. Appreciate your organization and industry volunteers, your community clubs and school parent helpers, and all those people who give selflessly to better your membership experience. If things are not always on the upswing don’t personally blame or ostracize the volunteers and instead do the only acceptable action out of respect and decency - thank them and show up offering to help.

Are you a candidate for a join-a-holics meeting? I welcome your comments.
Thanks for visiting,

(who is grateful to have a lot more writing time now)

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

as the world cries #JeSuisCharlie …


Today, this morning, my calendar had penciled in a window of personal and professional goal setting. Today was a day to plan my future year ahead, but I find myself instead opening my computer to the horrors of the news coming in from Paris this morning.  Ten journalists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, France now have no future. I am numbed by the headlines, tweets, posts and images of the massacre of the journalists, including four political cartoonists, along with the injuring of 20 other staff in the office on the publication’s team and sadly two police officers defending the threatened press members, are also dead.

When global terrorism strikes in my industry it hits home hard. I’ve sat there in a weekly editorial meeting many times over in my career (no gunman ever walked in the door shooting). The sharing of ideas, the editorial line up planning and creative brainstorming, the layout and advertising team all gelling together to deliver a print product worthy of readership press day after press day. Staying current, edgy, articulate, news worthy (enjoying freedom of speech, freedom of press). The creative team at a publication truly becomes a tight work-family as it takes all the pieces (10 lifeless creator bodies in the board room and 20 staff contributors all shot today around the office at Charlie Hebdo in Paris) to bring the ideas, flush them out, make them readable, paper eye candy and sellable at the same time. A small village produces a publication in a challenging creative dance each issue.


I remember back to my publisher chair on a weekly in Calgary when a few of the key staff, myself included, received disturbing and personally threatening letters one day. As an alternative weekly our content was not always for the middle-of-the-road reader (Charlie Hebdo magazine satirically challenged the status quo). We did not always please all of the readers all of the time and nor was that a publication goal. We did however offer a space to a popular columnist, Dan Savage, who has a great habit of pushing the morality-envelope every chance he gets to great brand success both humorous and insightful. The reader who sent the outright hate-mail blamed the staff for the lack of morality in the world, branding each guilty by association via publishing Savage Love weekly. Although ahead of the 911 attacks on all freedoms, the letters were disturbing enough to bring in the police. The envelopes were checked for contaminants, the staff were counseled, felt violated, personally attacked and very threatened for that which was printed in the pages of our paper. It was an alarming time. Our small and for the most part unnoticed alternative weekly experienced personal threats for doing our jobs and we each questioned our roles and our individual willingness to deliver on the underlying realities of the bigger picture of freedom of the press and free speech. A small scale incomparable story based on today’s Paris publication loss but one I can relate to on some level. I will never forget that September day, less than a month later, walking into the office to find the newspaper staff, my press-family, huddled around a tiny black and white TV screen in the break room. Stunned in dead silence as the images of the plane hitting the towers in New York seemed frozen on the static grainy screen. The world changed. Our freedoms changed. Freedom of the press changed forever.

One did not have to work on the leading edge of a CNN or CBC news team to feel the crush. Post 911 many writer colleagues across the country, and the globe, in all types of publications, questioned their roles. Delivering the truth was getting harder and harder, sadder and sadder, and yes riskier and riskier. To be part of an industry that brings the news and commentary to the world, good, bad or alternative, truthful, satirical or truthiness as Steven Colbert has dubbed it, all now runs with a grave risk. The Poynter.org reports that Reporters Without Borders’ annual “roundup of violence against journalists” recently released shows that globally in 2014 alone there were alarmingly 66 journalists killed, 119 kidnapped and 853 arrested.

Today in Paris that risk became a harsh reality. Many of those, ten, who came to work today at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, working at a publication which defended the freedom of words, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, are now tragically gone. Violently obliterated from humanity and existence by those intolerant to freedoms.  Those who did not like what this particular alternative satirical publication had to deliver walked in and gunned down the staff injuring 20 of them and killing 10 along with 2 police officers.

We all lost a little more freedom today. While I write this I am being intimidated on twitter from an account retweeting my sharing of some of the global journalist stories unfolding. The suspect account tagging my tweets (@mur_candemir #Muslims) is full of vitriol and hateful threats for the French. Even myself, a non-politically-influential writer in rural nowhere a world away has been personally retweeted perhaps in some sort of fear tactic by this rogue account. Very unsettling. Life has escalated today beyond what many can comprehend, myself included.

Our humanity is in grave danger of obliterating each other over words. That makes the writer in me broken.


click this quote to read an amazing piece today by former Onion editor:
"Freedom of speech cannot be killed"


Monday, 3 November 2014

NaNoWriMo ...


November has become globally known as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, as it is affectionately called in many scribe-circles. I have participated in this November writing challenge on and off since its inception in 1999.
It wasn’t always a popular wordsmith thing to do and I recall many years back posting NaNoWriMo info to a members’ listserv of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, PWAC, and getting some flack feedback on it being considered ‘unprofessional’.  (Interesting perhaps unrelated side note here that my dictionary defines “bookish” as forming opinions through reading rather than experience.)  Well now … fast forward a decade plus later and it seems all the ‘cool kids’ are doin’ it.
The NaNoWriMo concept is that of a total honour system, one sets out to write daily, hammering out a month long 50,000 word draft novel manuscript. Now 50,000 words hardly constitutes a full on literary long-written tome by scholar standards, but as the site FAQ points out … “Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. The length makes it a short novel (about the length of The Great Gatsby). We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does.”
Much tongue-in-cheek type of humour abounds in the NaNoWriMo FAQ’s and info on the site giving the impression to take this experience lightly and enjoy the writing focused month. But nothing could be more of a juxtaposition than the droll Nano backgrounder info and the overly-enthusiastic member forums. This is a seriously serious month for many posting with little regard to children or full-time jobs. November for the dedicated wrimo is about nothing outside of late-night writing, self-deprivation and the dreams of a best-seller over-night (one-month) success (and the occasional use of too many hyphens).
Writer regions exist world-wide for those who want to dial-in and connect, launch the month, spend countless hours on-line chatting about what they are writing and given the volume of some postings, assuming taking valuable time away from the actual writing. Come to NaNoWriMo for personal reasons, take from it what you want, connect or not connect, post your word count daily if you want. At month end the goal is to spool in your 50,000 word document for a scramble and a word count and delete, earning the writer a virtual badge prize to proudly display. No editing required, no outlines or pre-thought pre-requisites just show up and write.

This 'hobby' writer site is not to be taken lightly, unless you wish to, as many heavy hitters have nailed great success including a reported over 250 NaNoWriMo novels that have been traditionally published. One of my all time favourite reads is a wrimo success story, Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants. Visit the website and check out the press page and other cool details. Yes there is a greater cause, yes there are things you could purchase and support, but not a requirement to register, hang out as much or as little as you want and above all no rules to writing other than simply just do it! Set a personal goal, a vision of sorts, grab a pen or open a file, and start writing.

NaNoWriMo is not to be confused with Movember … although I am certain there are many unshaven cross over personal goals being met between these two very worthy global month long occasions in what used to be a sleeper of a month. November you are making a real name for yourself!
Enjoy the month no matter what your cause.
Write often, write always … and in November write daily!
(ps … yes I am using my real name at Nano (check out my profile) and am shooting for a 50,000 word first draft of a short story series in development, no I am realistically NOT thinking instant bestseller … but then one can dream …)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

a twist on summer reading lists ...

Many summer reading lists are published all over the web but a writer I know posed an interesting survey of sorts on his great blog in an attempt to spark a discussion and fuel his own future posts on his influential books.
I found this most enlightening and thought I would answer his questions here on my blog, but invite you to visit his blog of amazing thought provoking writing and if you are so inclined please answer his questions via his blog. Thanks Eugene Stickland for your writings and challenge to creative thought and dialogue. Stickland is an internationally celebrated playwright, poet, writer, a prairie soul and an illustrious Calgary resident.
Visit his blog and call for input on his influential book questions at http://eugenestickland.com/2014/07/02/eugenius-survey/ where you will also find dozens and dozens of great responses in his call which are fascinating reading all in themselves for anyone who reads or writes. Thank you again to Eugene for writing that which makes me pause to think.
Now my (MG) answers to Eugene’s (ES) questions shared here …

ES 1. “Which 5 books do you believe have changed the course of history, or at least the way we perceive the world? Some of these will be so self-evident that no explanation will be necessary, but feel free to comment on your choices if you like. Breifly briefly.”
               MG: I won’t even attempt to speak for ‘the world’ or changing history … but for MY world and MY history here are some (5+) of my personal top game-changers in no particular order (some great works of art, some not so much … but all shook up my simple thoughts and stuck with me) -
Legends of Vancouver by E. Pauline Johnson, The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger, On Writing by Stephen King, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Bridges of Madison Country by Robert James Waller, The Hour Before Dawn by Somerset Maugham, Sons by Pearl S Buck

ES 2. Be brutally honest: how many of these have you actually read?
               MG: I have read all, some many times over. For me a story that alters my very thoughts will call to me from the shelf again and again as if begging me to come out and play.  I have many favourite passages which I can be drawn to as if captivated by a magic act or by a bad car accident on the side of the road.

ES 3. How many of these books do you personally believe? Or Believe in?
               MG:  As a writer my first reaction always is to distrust and question everything I read. My second reaction is to suspend all beliefs and to let myself be taken on a journey through the words.

ES 4. Irrespective of the books you listed, what is the one book that you have read that has influenced you personally the most?
               MG: I know this might seem a little lame as the influential book that stands out was hardly a great literary work, but rather a light home-alone Saturday night single-girl read back in the day. It tells me as a writer that the underlying message, the truth of your story, is what you are telling as a writer, and the words, the passages, the scenes, are merely the pod to transport your truth to the reader’s soul. The story that stays with me often and creeps back into my thoughts via the smallest and mundane of everyday scenes connecting me back to the book is Robert Waller’s Bridges of Madison County. When I think about why that story stays with me it is probably because of time and place. Where life is at and from what frame of mind a reader reads is the journey. I read Bridges at a time when the concept of falling in love felt like an elusive fantasy and one of life’s biggest disappointing myths. This book, read in a lonely evening, changed my life. It reminded me that there is everyday good old fashioned love, but yes Virginia there is real knock down life changing crazy-in-love passion … and that it can change your life forever even if it is only for 4 days. The lesson for me in that moment in my life, in that evening home alone reading, was that love does not have to be forever but if done well it will stay with you forever. It changed how I fall in love.

ES 5. Do you believe that a book could still be written, whatever its mode of dissemination, that could wield as much influence as any of the books on your list? If not, why not?
              
MG: As a writer I have to believe, deep in my being each and every time I sit to write, that a life-altering read can still be written. If I did not trust that kernel of personal truth there would be no point in taking pen to paper. I don’t have to change the world with my writing, but I do write with intent to touch at least one soul beyond my own.

THANKS EUGENE …. looking forward to reading your follow up posts to the many many great responses on your blog … but mostly to reading your own personal list of influential writings.


Michelle

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

TOP TEN CHECKLIST for contracting freelance writing

As a freelance writer for decades one would think the basics should be second nature. They are well ingrained although the challenge is the market’s continual shift and the good ol’ how-to’s are constantly evolving. A writer can take many steps to secure freelance writing these days and many markets co-exist in which word-services are required. Freelance writer does not just mean magazine writer in these new times. Many professional freelance writers offer a cross section word services and have an array of business content skills. Work can be in the traditional magazine writing of article features but also encompass books, research, copyrighting, content strategy, business newsletters, brochures, newsletters and marketing materials, advertising, editorial management, press release and promotional materials, web site content, company report narratives, white papers, ghost writing and so much more. If it has words chances are a professional was enlisted to take the messaging to a professional polish.

A freelance writer is self-employed, contracted, home office based and an independent contractor. They are also their own salesman, book keeper, accountant, accounts receivable department, collection agent, janitorial services, human resources department managing benefits, insurance premiums, professional association and union affiliations and  the many other positions that run a large or small corporation all while being the star employee-of-the-month time and time again.

The initiating element for work in freelance that never changes regardless of the market one is earning in is the basic contract or assignment letter secured as a note of intent and a promise of a good faith payment to the independent worker. For the most part the polish of this arrangement often depends on the level of employment with larger companies and publications having formal multi page (often rights grabbing) contracts in place while many smaller or start up businesses use emails as confirmed assignment letters noting terms in the conversation writer to publisher/editor. Elements such as word count, rates, rights, deadlines, payment terms, kill fees and more are basic items to always solidify before starting any assignment or taking on any contract for words-for-hire.

As a starting point for an early career freelance writer and a refresher for a seasoned writer, taking the early steps to a mutual understanding of an assignment saves time and even rewrite frustration or payment lagging angst. In today’s busy web communication world much of the past formality to assignment has gone by the wayside. In the click of a few emails a well presented query from a solid qualifying writer can garner an assignment but often comes without a formal contract. As a precaution at the very least secure a basic confirmed email making note that it will serve as an assignment letter. Should there be a breakdown of any of the elements having this clear mutual starting point will be of great value for resolving issues or chasing a late payment or a worst case scenario kill fee.

The TERMS OF ASSIGNMENT need to be clear and in agreement with both parties. Here are my TOP TEN suggestions:

1.      TITLE of the assignment / working title of the article
2.     DESCRIPTION including a few sentence narrative description of the assignment
3.      ACCEPTANCE noting approval of both the assigning editor and the writer
4.     DEADLINE clearly noted and also a note re the potential changes scenario as a writer you do not want to get into a constant rewrite scenario if the editor had a different perspective on the concept of the assignment (so making the title and description tight is key)
5.      WORD COUNT of the assignment (specific to payment per word or payment for a size range such as $1.00 / word or $600 for 800 – 1000 word feature)
6.     IMAGES be very clear if the writer is expected to supply or arrange for images as a writer can lose valuable unpaid time tracking down subjects or arranging for images sent to editor
7.      PAYMENT TERMS of when the payment be made such as on acceptance, or on publication, cheque, e-transfer, etc.
8.     KILL FEES that allow for scenario such as writer editor butting heads or an article going in-the-can as they say, on hold for a later issue (this is key if the payment was on publication and that dates becomes undeterminable or never)
9.     RIGHTS including noting agreement on parameters such as byline, one time print or other, English and/or French, Canadian or North America, print or web, and the dreaded moral rights (which very basically would allow your byline to stand regardless of changes to your words and other not desired scenarios for your work), serial, digital, future rights and more
10.   MATERIALS used to gather assignment can sometime be requested filed to the editor including interviews, research, contacts, etc. so be clear if this is not your intent as a writer to share these sources other than cooperation for fact checking if requested

I strongly suggest that at least these point and maybe more be clearly defined before starting any assignment. For early career writers also know that what is termed writing-on-spec is not a professional ask of your skills. A publication that suggests you pre-write the article before they decide if they buy it is not worth your efforts or compromising your professionalism, nor is writing for free to garner a clip (more on these topics in a later blog).

My experience urges professional freelance writers, or those working to be, to consider aligning their career path with a professional association. Membership for me in the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) for a decade has been invaluable to my knowledge of the writing industry and protecting my work while I grew my business.  Access Copyright is important to join as a rights holder. The Canadian Freelance Union is a key alignment and also many writing guilds are important organization to support who will in turn support your career.

After all this sage advice I am unhappy to report that even in spite of following my own solid securing of an assignment I have outstanding invoices against a start-up publication that has now ceased and has not met their payments to contributors. An unfortunate scenario, not the norm in my experience but having a solid paper trail of the assignments and payment information makes for a strong case against a non-paying publication. Again an alliance of professional association and an industry standard many work to uphold has been supported by the organizations and union I hold membership and even by those I don’t. I am grateful for the added support of TheStoryBoard.ca for covering the story as a warning to other freelance industry professionals and the concern alongside that story of the Canadian Media Guild.

Read the details of a publication start up not respecting their assignment agreements and the resulting non-paying market at http://www.thestoryboard.ca/warning-freelancers-revelation-magazine/ and watch here for follow up on how I and other writers are using our professional associations, unions and guilds to spread the word and hopefully recover the outstanding invoices or at the very least ensure this scenario does not happen again.


If you have other freelance writing assignment term suggestions please add to the discussion here in the blog comments as I am always happy to update and share this list.


Writing always,
Michelle

Friday, 10 January 2014

Resolutions + my favorite things = 2014

I have never made serious resolutions although I do have an ongoing checklist of things I need to get better at or at the very least find a better way to do. The sudden (yes it took me by surprise) arrival of 2014 gave me little time to think about making positive changes for the year ahead so here I am almost two weeks in just getting around to determining that a few writer-home-office resolutions might be in order.
Combine my enthusiasm for the onset of another year with a list of my favourite things to help make that happen and the outcome is the following version of the famous Oprah-style ‘my favorite things’ minus the free giveaways and car. Although some of my noted faves here include freebies you can access so it is not all sad that the Oprah giveaway shows are gone like the Detroit balanced budget.

One of my key resolutions is to be somewhat more desk-organized. A home office and way too many ‘jobs’ can wreak havoc on limited space combined with the hoarder-need to surround myself with all my favorite things that give me inspiration. My small but efficient office space (okay yeah it spills over to other rooms) is home to a wall of hundreds of books antique and new, 6 inch thick old hard cover dictionaries, a typewriter collection displayed around the antique inkwells, pens, paperweights, vintage office collectibles, an antique brass and glass claw piano stool resting spot for an antique autoharp, mouth organ, and  a guitar resting along side, vintage wooden letter trays, oak library card drawers and  paper sorter, and even a giant two foot tall 3 inch thick hard bound newspaper morgue volume of the original December 1940 The New York SUN (don’t  ask). Around all this is my tools, phone, recorder, cameras, printer, scanner, iPod doc, desk lamp (green glass banker of course), a few lap tops, iPod, iPad, iPhone, and then add to the mix my many many magazines both sorted into file boxes, clips binders and piled around (as I write magazine fortunately this is both an allowable obsession and a true write-off expense). Now kick it up a notch with the all-writers-have-it unhealthy addiction to stationery, paper,  notebooks, journals, file folders (orange), note cards, markers, pens and pencils, and things can get a little tight in a small space.

My 2014 plan is to continue to love all the things I love and to finally use all those things I have been saving earmarked as too special to use - leather journals, good pens, fancy paper, monogrammed paper clips and even coloured printer ink when the mood hits me. My favourite things/get organized resolution starts now. Feel free to check out any of these faves and let me know how they stack up, or if I am missing out on something more FUN-ctional you might want to let me in on.

1.      First up on the use it lists has to be my many decorative (Paris themed) colourful storage boxes piled around the room – with the addition of cute custom labels these will be handy to file away some of the clutter of colured index cards, stickers, business cards, overflowing pencil piles and so much more.

 2.    My pens and pencils might seem out of control to a non-writer but on the flip side might seem lacking to a writer but keeping dozens of my favourite pencils on hand and sharpened to a point at all times is a must with my pick being billed as the world’s most comfortable, the Dixon Tri-Conderoga HB2 with a triangular shape perfect for endless doodling writing.

3.     On the list of too special to use journals and notebooks check out the Moleskin Evernote SMART Notebook combined with the Evernote app to take your hand written notes to your computer files in a snapshot.

4.     No writer’s office is complete without at least one or three vintage typewriters, one of my favourites being the classic minty green (not the actual famous Jack Kerouak) Hermes 3000 – a gem and types like new. A little much for a coffee shop writing-date when my iPad and keyboard cover suffice.

5.      My new favourite (as in free) software tools to organize my writing life have proven to be invaluable this past fall when life cranked up my work life in a good way. For accounting simplicity, web based, easy invoicing and simple bookkeeping check out Waveapp – the free version is more than enough power to drive a home office.

6.     The other great free software tool that has cleaned up my act in a big way is the project software insightly. This powerful free tool not only lets me break down my clients into simple project lists it then keeps track of all my assignments, task at hand, scheduling and lets me attach all the emails related to each project with a simple send out of any email.

7.     My lust for leather and my need for a functional briefcase/knapsack has sent me looking in a million directions for one serviceable bag – of the way many collected over the years none seem to serve well although my now vintage favourites have always been my Queros collection (yes I have had a few) – so on my list of 2014 things to own is a new, as in from this millennium, Queros leather bag (or two) … currently considering a combo of small briefcase  and one great messenger bag purse or maybe a knapsack.

8.    Not to take away from the love of reading an actual book but surprisingly one of my faves that has me reading way more simply because it is so simple to always have a library in my pocket is the lovely little KOBO MINI. Not as fancy as its more expensive bigger versions but it is a perfect time and space saver for an easy ongoing reading and anything that lets me read more when I step away from my desk is a good thing.


9.     Not that footwear has much to do with writing but for those who work from home and rarely wear shoes (let alone pants) I have a new best, will own them forever and travel with them always fave that is really the slipper of boots. PAKEMS are designed by a brilliant woman in Colorado with end of the day comfort in mind for skiers or hikers, but these apr├Ęs-ski booties are the best ever not-shoes a writer can own. High top or low and plain or print the design is amazing and my pink-plaid Pakems make my feet smile.

10.  Lastly, limiting my picks to ten, is my goal of not so many hard copy magazines underfoot in files and a commitment to read more of my magazines on my iPad. Many apps are out there to help bring them into your e-reader fast so I will check out the few recommended such as Zineo, the Kobo magazines app, and more – if you have a favourite one please do let me know and help me save about a zillion trees from my office recycle piles.


So whatever works for your home office embrace it and remember to quit saving all those oh-so-special goodies for an occasion – the occasion is now, 2014, the year of using all your favourite things. As one of my dear friends says, “Gotta use your stuff!”
Happy New Year!
Michelle


Ps … one addition that has nothing to do with organization and resolutions but everything to do with New year’s celebrating, no matter what time of year, is my favourite find beverage of Writers Tears Irish Whiskey. Folklore has it that when Irish writers cry they have tears of whiskey. If you truly want to embrace this writer’s drink of choice there is even a Writers Tears Writers Club.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Passion for writing ...



“I can never get people to understand that poetry is the expression of excited passion, and that there is no such thing as a life of passion any more than a continuous earthquake, or eternal fever..."  Letters and Journals of Lord Byron 

Passion instills creative self-energy of unique qualities. To be passionate about what one does, be it writing, painting, cooking, accounting, engineering, or whatever the task, one has to be one with the doing part of being. It is not simply enough to be the writer but one has to ‘do’ writing, and do it in a passionate way.
Writing comes from deep within, some would argue that it might even come from with-out, a beyond, from some energetic interruption from the universe gifted on to the page merely passing through the writer. However one discovers their words, the lack of desire in doing so makes the job of writing just that, a job. Any professional who is passionate about what they do will relay the same message, the lesson of being in the moment and being alive in what one sets out to accomplish on a daily basis. Drone is a negative low energy term that can be the calm opposite of passion if one allows a routine process to overtake the energy flow. Wandering one’s way through a job, meandering and biding time, is not invoking nor engaging your mind with your spirit. Your mind is a powerful tool, arguably your best tool regardless of your profession. For a writer it is everything. Our minds become our go-to-place on a moment by moment, word by word basis to get the writing job done.
The energy that comes from creating one’s work from inside your own head is indescribable to a non-writer and shadows a mystery and romance around the world of a writing lifestyle. That energy when coupled with passion creates a powerful obsessive-like process and when the two are in sync writing becomes a very crazed way to make a living.
It is not always simple but all writing be it journalism, research, technical, non-fiction, poetry, novel, script and many many kinds, all come back to one thing – that of the words that must come together on the paper. Those words must filter through the mind of the writer, process themselves onto the page and then carry a reader’s attention. The most banal newspaper article to the most complex big-screen script must all go through the same process. Without a passion the writer does not only the reader a disservice, but also one to themselves. Without the intensity of passion, the homework and research, the writing process and the final outcome are lack luster and one might as well trade in your pencils and stand behind a counter asking ‘do you want fries with that?”
Why write if you don’t bring a fire to the page? Always pack along your passion when you gather up your tools to write. Carry that ardent passion through the entire experience of creating and it will magically find its way onto the page every single time.

Write always (with passion),